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  1. #1
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    Question Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I just finished "Better Queens" by Jay Smith, after reading his earlier book on the same topic. http://bushfarms.com/beesbetterqueens.htm

    I'm planning to raise a few queens next year and am doing the required reading. I have some questions.

    He seems to say that the standard method of grafting yields inferior queens due to the fact that they are not adequately fed. If this true, why is grafting still so popular?

    It seems his method of cutting out cells and the rest is a bit more involved than the grafting method, is this true? Is it worth it for the results?

    Those of you who have experience in queen rearing, what are your thoughts on Mr. Smith's book? What is your advice for someone with fewer than two dozen hives who would like to raise their own queens?

    Don't misunderstand my intentions, I'm not taking his or anyone else's statements as difinitive, I'm just asking questions trying to learn and bring ideas together to form a viable trial method.

    Thus far, I'm interested in grafting because of the ability to sample a couple of half-dozens of larvae from several queens and raise them at the same time in the same cell builder. I like the Jenter/Nicot methods, but they require a bit more massaging and you only get progeny from one queen at a time. I also like the idea of making wax cells and not using plastic. It's not that I have anything against plastic, I just think it would be fun to be able to raise queens without needing to buy supplies.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    you are doing the best thing....read a number of "methods" and you will start to understand what actually has to happen in order to raise good queens.

    imho, grafting yields fine results as long as you graft from young enough larvae (the temptation seems to be to graft from larvae that are big enough to see well...you want to see the pool of food and wonder if there is a larvae in there or not ) i have not sen anything that makes me think the queens would be better using the smith method.

    take some time to practice this year so you are prepared for next.

    wrt wax vs plastic cups....i was suprised when i saw kirk webster using plastic cups...so i asked him about it. he used to use wax that he made himself (he makes his own foundation as well), but had a batch that the bees wouldn't touch. the plastic is universally accepted, and if you are on a schedule, you can't really afford to have a whole batch rejected. most don't seem to feel the need to prime the plastic cells if using a "chinese grafting tool".

    deknow

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I graft using a sable artist brush size 000.

    I use plastic cell cups straight from the box they are shipped in and I dont prime.

    In my experience the best queens that I can produce size wise are grafted from lavae that I can barely see because they are so small.
    The royal jelly in the cells when they are at this stage is almost clear.

    The cells are put into a queenless starter over flowing with bees they are given a frame of pollen scraped up so the bees have to clean it out and a fed a 1/1 sugar solution.

    They are left for 48 hours in the starter before moving them to a queenright finisher.

    In my opinion there are 3 things that are critical to producing good queencells/queens

    1. lavae size.
    2 queenless starter overflowing with bees.
    3 fed well with pollen and sugar/syrup.

    The sugar syrup is not used to feed them because they are hungry it's used as a stimulant to replicate a nectar flow which is conjusive to bees naturally wanting to raise cells in a flow rather than a dearth.

    I feel with the cutout method you have no control over the age of the lavae and you get a wide variety of cell size.

    I think with fewer than 2 dozen hives you are in a perfect position to try a variety of methods and chose the ones that you like the most.
    It takes a number of years with differing results to know whats going to work for you.

    For the most part commercial queen breeders would use the grafting method because it's quick and you can do large numbers at a time and in my opinion if you are raising your queen cells properly any difference in queen quality would have more to do with the breeding of the queen rather than the way the cells are produced.

    frazz

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Nothing wrong with grafting.

    But Better Queens by Jay Smith is an excellent little book and should be required reading for someone starting out. Things have advanced since then and Jay does not fully address some of the more modern conundrums such as genetic diversity, the focus of the book is purely on the actual mechanics of raising the queen. The book is aimed at full time queen breeders, but for a small hobbyist there is a section on how to use Jays method, using just one or two hives.

    Sol to do the cut cell right, you do need to use Jays method of putting a dedicated comb into your breeder hive, then removing it a day later with eggs in it, to ensure the larvae are the right age, as per what Frazz said. This might be the most complex part of the whole thing for a new beek, but just follow his instructions given in the section for a small beekeeper.

    A big advantage of grafting is you can use all available larvae, where the cut cell method requires a decent amount of larvae because the majority of them are destroyed. However while grafting done right produces fine queens, in my own experience of using both methods you do get a higher mating % from cells raised using the cut cell method, and Jay found that as well.

    I did a thread here about raising queens without grafting, that includes photos which might help. The method I showed was very similar to Jays method, just incorporated my own experience, plus a thing or two I learned from Robert Russell.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I was thinking of burning through a pound of Rossman's wax cups and then trying to make my own. Smith said the wax had to be perfect and clear or the bees wouldn't take it. If I feel like it's not worth my time to make my own, I'll try plastic. But I generally like to do things on my own for the sheer challenge of it.

    What is the name of a really good quality modern queen breeding book?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    We just used any old beeswax for cell making. Heck, if they'll take plastic.....
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    >He seems to say that the standard method of grafting yields inferior queens due to the fact that they are not adequately fed. If this true, why is grafting still so popular?

    Maybe "inferior" isn't quite the right word. His point was they were not all they could be. Smith literally "wrote the book" on grafting. His "Queen Rearing Simplified" was one of the most popular queen rearing books ever. But he was in a constant quest for "better queens". I think Smith would characterize queens from the graftless method as "better" rather than queens from grafting as "inferior".

    >It seems his method of cutting out cells and the rest is a bit more involved than the grafting method, is this true? Is it worth it for the results?

    I've done the Hopkins method once. My timing was probably off as it wasn't so spectacular in results. But I has potential. I haven't done the "Better Queens" method simply because I haven't gotten around to it. Grafting seems to be what I do the most of anymore mostly because I can walk out to the hive today, find some larvae the right age and graft them now. With the Better Queens method or the Jenter method, I have to confine the queen 4 days before and my schedule just got too hectic. But I like confining the queen and knowing the age. But it's no more work for me to do the Jenter with the same basic results (graftless and a full royal jelly compliment when transferred).

    >Those of you who have experience in queen rearing, what are your thoughts on Mr. Smith's book?

    I think it's a good plan. If you want a very similar but more simplified version (which was published decades before better queens) try this:

    http://bushfarms.com/beeshopkins1886.htm

    > What is your advice for someone with fewer than two dozen hives who would like to raise their own queens?

    http://bushfarms.com/beesafewgoodqueens.htm

    >I just think it would be fun to be able to raise queens without needing to buy supplies.

    All of these methods don't require supplies or grafting:
    http://bushfarms.com/beesbetterqueens.htm
    http://bushfarms.com/beeshopkins1886.htm
    http://bushfarms.com/beeshopkinsmethod.htm
    http://bushfarms.com/beesmillermethod.htm
    http://bushfarms.com/beesalleymethod.htm
    http://bushfarms.com/beesafewgoodqueens.htm

    And these use grafting but no commercial supplies:
    http://bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearingsimplified.htm
    http://bushfarms.com/beesdoolittle.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Look up the alley Method if you only want a few queens.You start strait from the egg.No grafting at all.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    But I want to graft. Compared to some of the other methods, it seems so utilitarian. That's what I'm looking for.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Sol, are you going to get out of your comfort zone, go and visit a commercial queen breeder?? Russell probably would be closest....Nothing like experience to learn. TED

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Ted, when are you going to stop trying to tell me what to do? I am getting out of my comfort zone. Do you see the reading of the books and the trying of the methods and the asking of the questions?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Glad to see you doing that. But still the nuances of queen breeding can be tricky. These little management skills can only be learned by working with a queen breeder., Not out of book. Good luck. TK

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I don't believe that for a minute. Beekeeping isn't some sort of secret cult wherein the secrets are only passed from person to person. There isn't any special knowledge that you or anyone else has that can't be learned from a multitude of sources or experience and experimentation.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    There isn't any special knowledge that you or anyone else has that can't be learned from a multitude of sources or experience and experimentation.
    I have to agree with Ted. There's a lot more to queen rearing than you'll learn from a book. What are you going to do when Murphy's Law bites you on the butt? Truly you can figure out solutions through experimentation and experience. Takes many years and lots of failures. With an experienced breeder as a mentor you can learn the pitfalls that will trap you as a novice. Times change. Situations change. Weather patterns change. An experienced breeder has past knowledge to draw from to deal with the current situation. No book can give you that, and you don't have the time to make all the mistakes.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    There is a reason most professions have some sort of apprenticeship program. I wouldn't want my house wired by an electrician with a book in one hand nor would I want my child taught by a student who had never had the opportunity to work under an experienced teacher. Sure you can raise queens by what you learn out of a book but unless you have experienced the myriad of pitfalls that seem to always pop up it is going to be a steep learning curve wrought with a lot of needless failures.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    for myself, i was introduced to actual grafting at a county bee club meeting. there were too many people for everyone to get hands on experience (i'm small, and can wiggle my way to the front of the line )...so i got to try grafting a few larvae (i used to do very fine metal work...making top of the line handmade piccolos)...it wasn't so hard.

    so i purchased a minimum of equipment and gave it a shot. my first graft failed, so i read up on things, and realized that i had flipped some of the larvae...second one was a roaring success.

    although i do ask questions on the forums from time to time, if i have a real pressing question, i call a queen breeder...a commercial one at that. i was very pleased last year at our conference to have a round of virgins emerge at the start of the conference....some of the finest breeders "checked my work" (mike palmer, kirk webster, chris baldwin, sam comfort, dee lusby, etc), and i gained some confidence that I was approaching things properly

    fooling around with queen rearing is different than actaully rearing queens....once you get the hang of it, you will see the utility of all the steps, and the need for each step to actually work every time. you want to get the most out of each cell builder. you want the highest percentage of acceptance (i have 2 rounds going right now of 21 cells each....the first one has drawn out 18 or the 21, the second has drawn out 21 of 21), you want to have a plan (and a system) for how, where, and by whom the queens will get mated. in short, it is somewhat of a waste to graft 10 cells once...it doesn't take many more resources to do 3 or 4 rounds of 20 cells each, but you have to set things up right. this is why i say read as many methods as you can, because you will start to understand the goals rather than the steps....all the schedules start ot make sense at the same time.

    the books i have on hand currently are roger morse's book (my least favorite), frank pellett's "practical queen rearing" (which i like because it has lots of info on different aproaches in very few pages), and the paige and laidlaw book. i've also been reading kirk webster's writings on his approach (http://KirkWebster.com/), which i find very helpful.

    but all of this is why we are running 4 week queen rearing classes this year...there are many obstacles to actually starting to graft and raise one's own queens (the mechanics of grafting, making cell builders, incubating cells, etc) and i think a bit of hand holding for the first 2 rounds will be helpful (and so do our students...we have filled one class and have started to fill another).

    once the mechanics and system is in place, then one needs to consider the goals. many simply purchase breeder queens and graft from them. the trend among many seems to be "mix and match" and make as diverse a gene pool as possible...this is flawed thinking. at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later), one needs to work with what one has, and breed into some kind of uniformity. mix and match can give you good queens for your apiary, but it is not a breeding program, and it offers no long term stability, nor does it offer "fixed traits" that other breeders would want to incorporate into their own stock.

    deknow

    deknow

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I don't believe that for a minute. Beekeeping isn't some sort of secret cult wherein the secrets are only passed from person to person.
    well, i think you are half right. few beekeepers keep secrets (there is no need, other beekeepers are so stubborn they won't listen anyways), and most are willing to share what they know. putting queen rearing into book form is not easy, and i have yet to read the perferct one (looking forward to mike palmer's book on the subject...i expect it to become the gold standard).

    i think you are on the right track to get advice from great breeders (there are several on this forum alone). i think it is expecting too much to assume that you will find all this information in any collection of books.

    the 2 rounds i have going right now were done because i wanted to start grafting NOW with the resources i had ( a few overwintered colonies and a bunch of new packages). i dequeened a package, did a newspaper combine with 5 frames of bees, brood, and fresh pollen from a strong overwintered hive, and in 5 hours they were building cells from my grafts. i've never seen this approach in a book, or even online....but it meets the requirements for a cell builder, and seems to be working fine. as the season progresses, i'll be doing things in a more conventional manner, but this works.

    deknow

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I didn't see that Ted was being condescending... get you a cup of coffee and a biscuit then read it again. Lol. What I think he was getting at was actually one of the very best things that anyone can learn about bee keeping, "get out of your comfort zone"... this is what I mean when I say "stay flexible"... it can be taken the wrong way, but it is meant to simply help one to be self critical and broaden ones own capabilities by accepting the fact that none of us know "it all" and that there is always room for improvement that can be learned from others (even if you do not share the same views on every aspect).

    Everyone does things a bit differently and no one does the same thing Every time... I have not written a book, mainly because I have not found the way to categorize Every different step that I may take to meet Every different variable that I may face... this is the short comings of all written material and one of the best qualities of an active forum.

    We have a student worker (internship) program that has over 300 people all with exceptional backgrounds on a waiting list awaiting their chance to get true hands on experience to see how each variable can be handled as it comes up... most of these people have a masters or doctorate in entomology, biology, etc... they are all very intelligent and well versed people, but they also know that a commercial breeding operation is the best place to see so many "issues" and so many variations of styles in response to those issues in one place...

    "If it can go wrong, it will". Text books help lay the ground works, but experience is the true teacher. I have never read Smith's book (not anything against him, I just do not read bee books, as I was blessed from the start with the resources to use trial and error and the combined teachings of my grandfather, father, and the "old names" in bee keeping to learn from), so I hadn't posted about it. I read studies and theories, because I like to "get out of my comfort zones" and try new things in a multitude of ways so that I am always seeking improvement.

    I think you just took Ted the wrong way... you seem to challenge a lot of conventional wisdom, but also seem to be eager to work... thus professors will push you in order to get you to unlock your true potential... which is usually hidden behind the "all" that one thinks that they know... true intelligence is not really a matter of what knowledge one has, but what ability and drive that one has to seek knowledge in every aspect of life. He is just trying to push you to open your mind and broaden your horizons.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I have been a professional learner for the past six years. In ten days, I'll have a sheet of paper that says I learned whatever it was that I was supposed to learn. In a couple of years, I'll have another sheet of paper that says I'm a master at whatever it was that I was supposed to learn. I already have two sheets of paper that say I learned whatever it was that I was supposed to learn in the first two years since when I started this trek.

    I simply reject the idea that I can't learn whatever I need to know from a book and from doing it myself. It's how I wired my house, it's how I plumbed my house, it's how I drywalled my house. It's how I fixed my cars and motorcycles and lawnmowers. Even if the information is told to me face to face, it still means nothing until I try it and either succeed or fail. If any method leads to a success, that success should lead to an enhancement of the method. If the method leads to failure, the failure leads to a new method.

    I reject the statement 'you can't learn from a book' because I have and I can and I do. It is what I do. It's what I was doing a few minutes ago because I have a final today. It is what I like to do. I enjoy learning that way. Are all books correct? Of course not, but neither are all 'experts' who give advice. Do books help you avoid all pitfalls and mistakes? Of course not, but neither do 'experts.' Learning and doing is taking some information and putting it to practice. The source of the information is unimportant because all sources will necessarily be incomplete. It's the doing that fills in the details. I could spend months with Ted or Jim or Dean or Dee or Don or Mark or Michael or the other Michael or Jay Smith himself and still not reach the rapid pace of learning that I could by doing it myself. Neither could I afford to do the former while I can easily do the latter.

    So if you want to reveal to me these deep secrets that I could only learn by being in your physical presence, please do. If not, I don't need you. I'll be okay. I'm young. I have time to make mistakes and gain experience. I have books, I have have the internet, I have Michael Bush's website (someone who feels free to share knowledge at every opportunity), and I have hives of my own. I'm gonna be okay. And I'm going to enjoy it. I will enjoy the successes and the failures the whole way through.

    This is one of the great failures of this forum. I ask 'how do I reconcile different methods' and many of the answers I get are 'you can't learn from a book.' Preposterous. And it's not the question I asked.

    Many thanks to Dean, Frazz, Michael Bush, and Alastair.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Better Queens by Jay Smith

    I would say Good Luck, but it seems you don't think you need it. ;-)

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